There is no shortage of Cavaillé-Coll instruments forming an exceptional heritage, but the organ of the Marquis de Lambertye, presently located in Bécon, enjoys a very special position in the organbuilder’s output.
The circumstances of its purchase and edification were such that it partakes more of the salon organ idea than that of a church instrument. Far from being of mere symbolic import, this distinction makes this instrument one of the largest salon organs by Cavaillé-Coll from this period, and a unique witness to the most profound art of the builder, since unlike church organs it was conceived according to the particular wishes of a private client. Hence, far removed from church instruments which—as sumptuous as they may be—cannot rival the Marquis’s organ in originality, it is a festival of particularities. In addition, a strong German influence may be observed in the esthetic choices made.
While in a more anecdotal vein certain stops bear Germanic names (Untersatz, Subbass), no sooner has the visiter entered the organ loft than he notices the presence of three balanced swell pedals in the organ console. This instrument was in fact the first of Cavaillé-Coll’s organs to make available this rocking pedal action, much more flexible in use than the spoon-shaped, pedals heretofore used. This arrangement, most certainly borrowed from the great German builder Walcker, enables the player to control the swell boxes but also the Physharmonica.
This stop, also borrowed from Walcker, is a free-reed stop without resonators, comparable to a harmonium stop within the organ. In France, only the organs of Saint-Brieuc and Luçon contained such stops, today irretrievably lost.
Coming back to the system of expression in this instrument, the principle is—as elsewhere in organbuilding—to enclose within a large box (known in French as boïte expressive) all the pipework of a division. The box is fitted with shutters that make it possible, via the above mentioned pedals, to “enclose” the sound and produce dynamic effects. While the Positif enjoys this arrangement, the Récit division has shutters on two sides, and we know that “one closed as the other opened.” This is highly extraordinary because it implies the sole instance in Cavaillé-Coll’s work in which he applied the principle of the German Fernwerk, not only producing dynamic variation but supplying an echo effect by channeling the sound over a different path.
Beyond these rather technical considerations, the extraordinary qjality of each of the instrument’s sonorities may be appreciated, reflecting the voyage through romanticism offered by the very stoplist itself.
Its conception has in particular served as a model for the prestigious main organ of the national Kallio Church in Helsinki, Finland, completed in 1995 by the Swedish firm of Äkerman & Lund.